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Connect: Topic Chains Your readers will find it easier to follow writing in which the topics of the sentences

remain relatively consistent and linked together in a chain. Examine your writing for unexpected topic switches. Although sentences with active voice verbs are generally preferred to those with passive voice, the passive voice is used to good effect to avoid a topic switch.
Draft I have lived all my life in Brooklyn, New York. Park Slope is a neighborhood that has many different ethnic cultures. Harmony exists among the people, even though it does not in many other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Many articles in the press have praised the Slope for its ethnic variety. Many different ethnic cultures flourish in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I have lived all my life. These different cultures live together harmoniously, even though they do not in many otherBrooklyn neighborhoods. In fact, the ethnic harmony of the Slope has often been praised in the press.

paragraph was on the topic of retirement, and these first two sentences of the next paragraph provide the link between saving for retirement and saving for pleasure. Use adjectives like this and these to provide a link: These proposals will help. However, . . . Use transitions such as also, too, in addition, however, therefore, and as a result to signal the logical connection between ideas.

Commit: Critical Thinking Critical thinking does not mean criticizing negatively. It means examining and analyzing information with an open mind. Whether you are writing a business analysis, an essay about literature, or a persuasive argument, committing to critical thinking is a necessary first step. Develop a system of inquiry. (Just because something is in print, it is not necessarily accurate or applicable at all times.) Having a system of inquiry will lead to using certain stylistic features in your writing: questions, reflective statements about the position of authors you read, and statements that point out an alternative view (introduced with phrases such as but, however, on the other hand, and this also indicates that . . .). When you think critically, your writing takes on your own voice, you own stance. It becomes more engaged and vital, a reflection of your thinking rather than a regurgitation of others' opinions. Following are suggestions to help you develop critical thinking skills and write in a way that involves critical analysis. Write journals. When you read or research an issue, keep a journal of your responses to what you read. Here, in your own ungraded writing, you can write summaries, make inferences, ask questions, challenge views, reflect on the opinions of others, and identify and consider the author's purpose. Observe details. In your journal writing, letters, conversations, and papers, develop your skill in observing and remembering details: the


Connect: Paragraph Links Just as readers appreciate a smooth flow of information from one sentence to another, they also expect to find transitions ("bridges," or connections) between paragraphs. A new paragraph does signal a shift to a new topic, but not necessarily to one that is completely different. Lead your readers over steppingstones; don't ask them to leap over chasms. Tips for providing paragraph links.

Read your draft aloud. As you finish a paragraph, make a note of what point you made in the paragraph. Then, at the end, read your notes and check your flow and logic. Refer to the main idea of the previous paragraph as you begin the next: Retirement is not the only reason for saving. Saving also provides a nest egg for the unexpected and the pleasurable. The previous

names of characters in a novel, the clothes worn in a film, the author of a magazine article, the main points in a lecture, the appearance of everyday objects, and so on. Ask questions. In spoken discussion, in the margins of books or articles, or in your journal, ask questions. Interact with ideas. Become involved with your own education. As or after you read an article or listen to a lecture, write questions that you would like answered, questions relating to the specific content of what you read or hear. More generally, when confronting information that you read or hear, ask:

Analyze and evaluate arguments. Analyze how writers are presenting information. If they classify information, do the categories cover all the material? If they compare and contrast, is this approach valid and helpful? If they speculate about cause and effect, have they done a thorough job? Similarly, when you write, consider how you present information. To think and write critically, you also need to evaluate other writers' logic, watch for flaws in your own logic, and construct your arguments with care. Commit: Point of View Your background reading, critical thinking, and drafting will help you discover a perspective and thesis that seem correct to you. Once you have made those decisions, use language that shows commitment to the point of view you develop through your critical thinking. When you are trying to persuade your readers to accept your point of view, avoid the language of ambivalence and indecisiveness evident in words and phrases like maybe, perhaps, might, it could be, it could happen, it might seem, and it would appear. Aim for language that reflects accountability and commitment: as a result, consequently, of course, believe, need, demand, think, should, must. Use language of commitment, however, only after you have thoroughly researched your topic and found the evidence convincing. Commit: Confident Stance Convey to your readers an attitude of confidence in your abilities and judgment. Readers will not be impressed by apologies. One student writer ended an essay like this:
Draft I hope I have conveyed to my reader something about our cultural differences. I would like my reader to note that this is just my view, even if a unique one. Room for errors and prejudices should be provided. The lack of a

What do I need to know to understand this information fully? Where does this information come from? What are the author's purpose and bias? What evidence is provided? Do I find that evidence convincing? How does this information fit with what I already know? What else do I need to ask?

Look for assumptions and bias. Writers often work to establish common ground with their readers. When you read, try to determine what that common ground is. What audience is the writer writing for? Is the writer presenting facts or opinions? What does the writer assume that the reader already knows and believes? Do you accept the writer's assumptions? Understand other viewpoints and consider alternatives. If you read an argument that you disagree with, do not just reject it or write it off as ridiculous. Try to understand why the writer holds the opinion, what the writer's background is, and what audience the writer is writing for. Are there instances in which you would agree with the author's views? Such reflections can lead to concessive statements (those that yield to, grant, or acknowledge an opposing position) in your writing, such as "The author explains why he holds this view, and he does so convincingly for the small segment of the population he addresses. However, . . . ."

total overview, which would take more time and expertise, should also be taken into account.

If you really have not had time to do an adequate job of making and supporting a point, try to find extra time and improve the draft. Don't be content with adding apologetic notes admitting that you don't know much about your topic. Here is the same student's revised ending:
Revised The stories I have told and the examples I have given come from my own experience, but they illustrate clearly the idea that in one place and at one time, cultural differences did not have to separate people but could be a way of bringing them closer together. A diverse, multilingual society holds many potential benefits for all its members.

Even if you know you have done a thorough job of presenting your opinion and marshaling evidence to support it, you may feel that other writers have covered the topic more extensively. There is no need to measure your contribution against theirs. Just submit your paper confidently, secure in the knowledge that the argument in it is well supported.